Barganic Alert: Cuisine Cube Subscription Box $15 off Coupon

Cuisine Cube has recently revamped their subscription box service to better cater to a variety of food needs and preferences. Previously Cuisine Cube focused exclusively on gluten free foods, but now they have expanded to offer either gluten free, vegan, or artisan food boxes. Boxes will include 6-7 full sized food items in the category selected and cost $39.99/month with free shipping, with discounts for multi-month subscriptions. To celebrate their newly revised site and expanded lines, Cuisine Cube is offering a $15 off coupon. Just enter NEWSITE15 at check out. This is an auto-renewing subscription unless a pre-paid, multi-month subscription is selected.

If you would like to see my most recent listing of “crunchy-friendly” subscription boxes, you can find that here.

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Crunchy Father’s Day Gift Ideas

Father’s Day is coming up fast. I wanted to highlight a few gift options that have caught my eye that might appeal to the crunchy dad in your life:

Vegan Cuts Men's Grooming Box

1. Vegan Cuts Men’s Grooming Box
Remember when I posted about the Vegan Cuts Men’s Grooming Box back in March and said something about tucking it away until Father’s Day? Just in case you forgot, you can still order the box for the vegan crunchy dad. VC says that orders placed through today should arrive in time for Father’s Day. As a reminder, the Grooming Box features 12 vegan products and is valued at $108. Box cost is $39.95 with free shipping in the United States.

Farm to People Billy Corrigan box

2. Farm to People Tasting Box curated by Billy Corgan Many people do not know that Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins has a passion for local artisanal foods. As the owner of a tea house in the Chicagoland area, he sources beautiful and exotic teas, serves gluten free, vegan, and Paleo fare and decorates the place with an eclectic mix of antiques and art. If you are lucky enough to be in the area (as I am) you may even get to sip some delicious tea as you listen to Billy (as his alter ego DJ Ivory Tower) spin some classic Smashing Pumpkin tunes. If you cannot make it out to his Madame Zuzu’s tea house to enjoy a cup of gourmet tea, this Farm to People box features some delicious herbal teas from Madame Zuzu’s (two of my favorites in fact) as well as some of Billy’s favorite small batch foods. Three boxes, at random, will also include a handwritten note from Billy himself. The boxes cost $129, which includes free ground shipping. Due to perishable items, some areas will require an additional charge for overnight shipping. Farm to People offers other other Father’s Day gift packages at various price points and to cater to different dietary needs such as vegan, paleo, gluten free, and organic.

organic beer brewing kit

3. Seven Bridges Cooperative Organic Beer Brewing Kits Available in both regular and gluten-free varieties, these kits contain the certified ingredients needed for dad to brew up a batch of his own ale, lager, stout, etc. in a couple hours. Some basic equipment is required. Pricing starts at $36.00.

Alchemy Goods upcycled toiletries bag

4. Alchemy Goods upcycled toiletries bag These water-resistant bags are crafted in the USA from reclaimed truck inner tube and and feature a zipper pull made from a tube valve. In total they are made from 92% upcycled materials. Eco-friendly and practical sounds good to me. These bags are currently on sale for $30 plus shipping.


5. Eco-friendly watches:

Sprout Watches

Sprout Eco-Friendly watches Made from eco-friendly materials such as corn resin, organic cotton, bamboo, cork, and Tyvek and using only mercury-free batteries. These watches come in a style sure to suit any crunchy dad who wants to be eco-conscious and on time. I saw prices for the watches starting around $22 on Amazon.

We Wood watch

We Wood offers another non-traditional watch option, using mostly scrap wood to craft their watches. In addition, for every watch purchased, We Wood plants a tree somewhere in the world, with over 300,000 trees planted to date.

Upcycled vintage leather wallet

6. Eco Friendly Wallet: There are a whole array of wallets in every shape, configuration, and price point featuring upcycled and Earth-friendly materials. I loved this cork wallet featured on Etsy.com. and the gorgeous vintage leather wallets pictured above made from upcycled baseball mitts by Fielders Choice Goods.

Klean Kanteen growler

7. Eco-friendly water bottle: There are so many great eco-friendly water bottles available on the market now. I personally am partial to glass or stainless steel options. We have been using Klean Kanteen bottles for many years in our family, and I have given them as gifts to family members in the past. Hydration is so important to good health and these bottles make it easy. Klean Kanteen has even recently introduced growlers to their line (pictured above) in the event that you want to pair a reusable bottle with that organic brewing kit above.

I hope that you find the perfect something or a great inspiration in the list above. What are you getting the crunchy dad in your life for Father’s Day this year?

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Barganic Alert! Mindfulness Box 15% off code

Mindfulness Box June 2015 Unboxing & Review

Mindfulness Box is currently running a promotion for 15% off your total purchase using the code FATHER. I believe that this code applies to your entire purchase, including multi-month subscriptions. The code will also include an extra item with your first box and a handwritten note. To see all of my Mindfulness Box unboxings, including what I received as a free gift for using the pre-Mother’s Day 15% off + free gift code (no longer valid) look here.

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Kings Road Apothecary Subscription Box Unboxing-May 2015 (Ocotillo and Wild Rose)

Kings Road Apothecary is a small, herbal apothecary business, owned and run by a woman named Rebecca. KRA features small batch, handmade herbal products for body, home, and health, with an emphasis on seasonally wildcrafted and organic ingredients. They offer a monthly “Surprise Box” indie subscription service. Each monthly box features four herbally-based, small-batch, handcrafted items that center around a theme. Box pricing recently increased starting with this month’s box to $53.50 plus shipping when ordered individually, but multi-month subscriptions include shipping. The May theme was “Ocotillo and Wild Rose.” Unfortunately, the May box is no longer available but there are still a handful of June boxes available for purchase. More details about the June box below. To see my other Kings Road Apothecary unboxing and reviews from prior months, look here.

Please enjoy the complete unboxing video. If you prefer to skip right to the photos and the nitty gritty, keep scrolling down. Also, as I mention in the video, sometimes it is challenging to keep all of the herbalism terms straight. If you find it confusing to distinguish a salve, ointment, and cream or an oxymel, shrub, and cordial, I have explained them all in the Crunchy Parent Herbal 101: Glossary of Common and Unusual Herbalism Terms and 50+ Great Ideas for Using Herbs.

Kings Road Apothecary May 2015 enclosures

The box came with all items individually wrapped in coordinated tissue paper and tied with kitchen twine. In addition to the four herbal items, the box also came with a copy of a beautiful drawing of ocotillo blossoms and wild roses penned by Rebecca exclusively for this box. On the back of the drawing was a recipe for Rose Gulkland, which was described as an ayurvedic rose petal paste. The box also included a letter from Rebecca describing the box contents and a small, hand stamped, muslin, drawstring bag that contained a small piece of rose quartz crystal. Rebecca suggested that the rose quartz be carried as a talisman or to be dropped into water and allowed to sit overnight to charge the water with creative energy.

Kings Road Apothecary May 2015 tea and oxymel

The first item that I unwrapped was a bag of Hawthorn and Rose Creativity Blend Tea, approximately 1 oz. by weight (estimated retail value: $5.00). Blending herbs and flowers, the tea is described as being a calming, relaxing, creativity-enhancing decaffeinated tea blend. This tea blend appears to have been made exclusively for this box. Other Kings Road Apothecary teas can be found for purchase here.

Discovered next was a 2 oz. glass dropper bottle of Strawberry and Wild Rose Oxymel. The oxymel blends roses and strawberries with other other flowers, berries, organic apple cider vinegar, and raw honey to make a concentrate that can either be dosed by drops or more commonly added to sparkling water over ice to make a refreshing drink. This item was another box exclusive. I saw no other oxymels available for purchase on the KRA site, or really anywhere in my Google adventures. Therefore, I have to consider the value of this little gem to be priceless.

Kings Road Apothecary May 2015 oil and elixir

The other two items included a 1 oz. glass bottle of Wild Rose and Santal Body Oil. This oil smelled of roses, and was a smooth, silky blend of rose, sandalwood, and ocotillo blossoms in a base of many nourishing and moisturizing fruit, seed, and nut oils. This would make a beautiful body oil for use after shower or bath, or as a massage oil. Although the online descriptions and bottles do not specify, I believe the bottle sold online to be a 2 oz. size, based upon the size and pricing of this similar oil, therefore I am estimating the value on the 1 oz. bottle included in the box at $13.00.

The final item was a 1 oz. glass dropper bottle of Ocotillo and Rose Heart Center Elixir (value $15.00). This calming and uplifting heart-centered elixir is designed to connect you to the core of who you are. This was another box-exclusive item, highlighting roses and ocotillo in addition to other natural and organic ingredients. Other KRA elixirs can be explored here.

Kings Road Apothecary May 2015 subscription box

Overall, I continue to be happy with this subscription. The value is not as high as with many other more mainstream subscription boxes, but I think of myself as less of a consumer and more of a supporter when I purchase this indie subscription. I like that I am supporting a small woman-owned business as well as the craft of herbalism. I love the curation of the box and the care that goes into the packaging and to each overall theme. I see added value from the KRA newsletter which discusses the box theme throughout the month and links to additional resources and recipes. I also find that the box items inspire me to learn new things about herbalism and expand my own herbal crafting. Lastly, because the items are made seasonally and in small batches, sometimes the items included are entirely exclusive to the box recipients, and many of the ingredients used are fairly esoteric and not often seen in mainstream products (e.g., ocotillo).

The theme for the June box is White Sage + Clarity and will start shipping on June 18th. The box items will come wrapped in a sage-dyed piece of natural fabric (cotton, silk or linen), with a printed drawing and recipe tucked inside, and a few sage leaves for burning and purifying your space. The four items in the box will be chosen from among white sage, black sage, wild rose and monkey flower smudge stick; white and black sage body scrub; coastal sage and blue curls healing salve; white sage and blue curls infused facial serum; white sage clarity elixir; hummingbird sage infused honey; white sage and wild mint body oil; white and black sage room-clearing mist; sage cleansing bath salts; chaparral fragrant mist (distilled from a variety of coastal chaparral plants); California cooking spice blend; white and hummingbird sage body wash; white sage and wild mint solstice candle, or white sage, wild mint and hummingbird sage digestive elixir.

As a reminder the KRA boxes are made using wildcrafted ingredients. In an effort to support plant sustainability in harvesting, only limited number of boxes are available each month. As of this writing, a handful of June boxes remain available for purchase, so take advantage of the opportunity if the June box appeals to you.

If you would like to see my most recent listing of “crunchy-friendly” subscription boxes, you can find that here. To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here on the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe!

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Mindfulness Box Subscription Box Unboxing and Review-June 2015

Mindfulness Box June 2015 Unboxing & Review

Mindfulness Box is a recently launched subscription service aimed at providing simple reminders and inspiring new, conscientious goods sure to encourage living more deeply in the moment. This lifestyle box includes holistic and homeopathic, essential oil, and mineral based health care products, handcrafted jewelry, delicious biodynamic treats, natural minerals/crystals and more. Each box contains 4-5 items accompanied with guided dialogue to enrich the recipient’s journey to balance and inner peace. Boxes cost $29 per month, which includes shipping, and are less with multi-month subscriptions. To see all of my Mindfulness Box unboxings, look here.

I purchased this box and was not compensated in any way for this review. All opinions are my own.

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

Mindfulness Box June 2015 enclosure card

I should start by noting a change from last month’s box. The May box included an individual enclosure card for every item and each item was wrapped in its own plastic baggie. Although this was helpful in keeping items separated and instructions clear, it did appear to be an unnecessary amount of packaging, which was hard to justify from an environmental perspective. This month Mindfulness box streamlined the enclosures into one sheet listing every item with a brief description, suggestions for use, and a monetary value. In addition, only one item was grouped and packaged in a plastic baggie, the others were only wrapped to the extent necessary to protect them during shipping. I appreciated this change. I did not think that it detracted from the presentation or ease of organization, and it felt more responsible from an ecological perspective.

Mindfuness Box June 2015 affirmation cards and incense matches

The box included deck of 36 daily affirmation cards, exclusive to Mindfulness Box (value $14.00). The idea behind the cards is to bring mindful reflection into your life. It is suggested that to start each day you should pick a card and state the affirmation with gratitude. Throughout the day hopefully your thoughts will be drawn back to the sentiment on the card. Sample statements include, “Breathe it all in. Love it all out.” and “Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.” I thought that this was a great mindfulness activity. In addition, Alina (age 9) was also really excited by these cards and she has asked to read one in the morning in the days since the package arrived. I love that the cards have inspired a mindfulness activity that I can share with my children as a great way to start their day.

Also included was a book of incense matches (value $1.50). Although I initially thought that these were matches to be used to light incense, upon inspection I realized that the matches were actually scented, making them a one-stop incense option. You just light them, let them burn for a bit and then blow out and enjoy the fragrance. Mindfulness Box encouraged using the “mini incense” as a momentary reminder to breathe and center one’s self throughout their day.

Mindfulness Box June 2015 bracelets and candy

The next goodies included a bag of five Go Naturally Organic hard candies in a variety of flavors (value $0.50) The candies are organic and non-GMO verified as well as being free of gluten and dairy, artificial colors or flavors, and high fructose corn syrup. The kids were all too happy to help me sample these and gave them rave reviews, asking me to purchase some more soon.

In addition, also admired (but not consumed) by the children was a set of Revel V Wish bracelets (value $9.00). The set consisted of three clusters of crystals strung onto hemp twine. Worn together or individually, these bracelets are meant to be wished upon before wearing. When they ultimately fall off, the wearer is believed to be ready to receive the wish. The bracelets were decorated with amethyst, rose quartz, and citrine crystals and came with a card describing the properties associated with those stones. I was inspired by the bracelet design to customize my bracelet a bit. I stacked the stones in a line and then braided the twine on either side to make a single bracelet, although I still dedicated a wish to each strand. As I have been wearing the bracelet of the last few days, seeing it does serve as a reminder of the wishes that I am holding and certainly brings mindfulness to the intention behind them.

IMG_9041Mindfulness Box June 2015 selenite tower

The “statement piece” in the box was a tapering selenite tower. It is unlike anything that I have and I thought it was really quite special. The tower weighed in at a substantial 12 ounces and stands just over 4 inches tall, although I imagine that there is slight variation. Selenite is believed to aid in mental clarity and decision making, as well as to promote honesty and spiritual growth. Mindfulness Box listed the retail value of this piece at $12.00, and since I’ve never seen anything like it, I defer to their stated value. I look forward to using this tower in my home.

Mindfulness Box June 2015

Once again I was very pleased with my Mindfulness Box. I think that the subscription is a unique one in its purpose of adding mindfulness and consciousness to the buyer’s life. I am pretty well-versed in “crunchy” interests and goods, yet both boxes that I have received to date have introduced me to one or more items that are totally new to me. I appreciate the curation and the intention of the subscription, and I think that energy is reflected in the box and its contents. The total retail value of the products contained in this box ($37.00) was not as high as the calculated value of last month’s box, however I know that I have already used, or will use all of the items in the box, which enhances the value for me. I am looking forward to receiving my next Mindfulness Box and to putting the mindfulness activities from this month’s box into practice.

If you would like to see my most recent listing of “crunchy-friendly” subscription boxes, you can find that here. To see other crunchy subscription box video unboxings, look here on the Crunchy Parent You Tube channel. If you have any suggestions or requests for future videos, please let me know in the comments, and be sure to subscribe!

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Herbal 101: Glossary of Common and Unusual Herbalism Terms and 50+ Great Ideas for Using Herbs

Herbal 101 Glossary and 50+ Ideas for Using Herbs (cordial, oxymel, tincture, elixir, balm, salve, butter, salt, fizz, and so many more)

I received my monthly Kings Road Apothecary subscription box the other day (unboxing and review to be posted soon). During the unboxing I realized that although I have a general knowledge of many basic and intermediate herbalism terms, I’d be hard pressed to know and explain the difference between a shrub, oxymel, and elixir or a salve, ointment, and cream.

I thought that it might be helpful to put together a glossary of terms that one might run into when exploring herbalism or when looking for creative ideas for things to do with herbs. Of course, once I started to delve in it seemed that there are endless things that one can make and do with herbs in the form of beverages, medicines, topical applications, household products, personal care products, and more.

I’ve put together a list of 50+ common and unusual herbalism terms and ideas for using herbs. I am sure that there are many that I’ve overlooked, so please comment and I will add them to the list. Because essential oils made from herbal plant material have their own long list of helpful applications, I have limited the list below to items that can be made exclusively with herbal plant material or with herbs and the addition of essential oils in some cases. I have excluded products that rely exclusively on essential oils for their herbal ingredients. I have tried to organize the list into a general progression from beverages, food, herbal medicine, personal care, and household, but since many herbal preparations can be used in multiple ways, the boundaries between groupings are a little fuzzy.

The first portion of the list is primarily focused on items that are used internally, and involve extraction of herbs into liquid (again, boundaries between lists and groups are fuzzy). Nevertheless, this seemed like a good place to clarify that most liquid herbal recipes are comprised of the menstruum (liquid used to extract the properties of the herb) and the marc (plant material being used). It is the process of this extraction and the type of menstruum and marc that can be varied, yielding a host of wonderful end products with many applications.

cordial-a cordial is a sweet beverage made from alcohol and sugar steeped with a choice of fruits, herbs, and sometimes nuts. Vodka, grain alcohol, brandy or other alcohols serve as the base to which the other ingredients are added and allowed to infuse for weeks to months. Once infused, the botanicals are strained out leaving the flavored sweetened cordial. Some recipes infuse the plant material in the alcohol before adding sugar whereas others steep all of the ingredients together.
oxymel-The core components of an oxymel include vinegar, honey, and herbs, although many incorporate fruit as well. The ingredients are mixed in the proper proportions (generally one part dried herb to three-four parts liquid) and then allowed to steep in a cool, dark location for a couple of weeks before straining. Oyxmels, especially fruity ones, may be added to water or sparkling water to make a refreshing beverage. They may also be used straight or mildly diluted in more medicinal applications.
shrub-also known as a sipping vinegar, or drinking vinegar, shrubs steep herbs in a mixture of vinegar and sugar or honey. They also incorporate fruits, with some sources reporting that the original purpose of shrubs was to preserve fruits. Like their close cousin the oxymel, shrubs are often added to water or sparkling water over ice and enjoyed as a cool drink.
switchel-a very specific type of shrub, a switchel traditionally blends ginger, vinegar, water, and a sweetener such as sugar, honey or molasses to create a cooling drink.
syrup-herbs and water are cooked together to produce a strong decoction (see decoction). Fruit or vegetables may be included as well to enhance flavor. This liquid is then combined with honey, sugar or other sweetener and cooked further to thicken into a sweet, concentrated syrup. Syrups can be taken medicinally by the spoonful or used in culinary applications depending on the herbs used (see soda).
soda-an herbal syrup combined with sparkling water.
tea-herbal plant material such as flowers, leaves, stems, or fruits usually steeped in boiling water for 5-15 minutes to extract some of the flavor and beneficial properties. Generally consumed as a beverage although herbal teas may also be added to baths for topical benefits.
infusion-a medicinal drink made by pouring boiling water over softer herb materials such as leaves, stems, fruits, or flowers and allowing them to steep, covered, for an extended period of time, often several hours or more. The extended infusion time allows for the extraction of more constituents from the herb. Infusions often use significantly larger quantities of herbs relative to water as compared to teas.
docoction-a medicinal drink made by simmering or gently boiling harder herb components such as barks, roots, seeds, or mushrooms in water for an extended period of time. Usually decoctions are allowed to simmer covered for 20-30 minutes, concentrating the liquid by half.
poultice-soft plant material mashed with water, oil, or in the case of a “spit poultice” simply chewed and spit out to produce a soft, wet mass of masticated herbs. A poultice is applied directly to the skin to help heal or draw out infection.
compress-liquid-soaked fabric that is applied to the skin,covered, and kept warm (via a water bottle, heating pad, etc) for a period of time to promote healing. Infusions, teas, pastes, or herbal oils can all be used for compresses.
elixir-traditionally an elixir is an infusion of herbal plant material such as roots, leaves, or flowers in a base of brandy and honey. Generally elixirs are used medicinally by drop doses.
bitters-the standard western diet is heavy in sweets but lacking in the bitter department. Herbal bitters involve creating a tincture of bitter herbs and other flavoring agents such as fruits and spices along with alcohol. In come cases sweeteners such as honey may be added as well as water to dilute the strength if desired. Bitters help to stimulate the digestive juices needed to effectively process heavy foods and thus may help with gas, bloating, and stomach upset associated with eating rich foods. Bitters have been reported to help regulate blood sugar and appetite. They are also sometimes included in cocktail recipes to add flavor and bitterness to the drink. Bitters are usually dosed by drops.
tincture-(see extract) an infusion of plant material into an alcohol base, such as grain alcohol, cane alcohol, or brandy. Proof of alcohol needed for best extraction of plant chemistry will vary based upon the type of plant and plant material being used (e.g. gums, barks, and resins often require a higher proof alcohol for complete extraction as opposed to flowers, stems, or leaves). Sometimes water may be added to adjust alcohol content. The general ratios used are one part fresh plant material to two parts alcohol, or one part dried plant material to five parts alcohol. Plant material is often infused for several weeks before being strained out, allowing the tincture to be used medicinally. Tinctures are often dosed by drops.
extract-(see tincture) The terms tincture and extract are often used interchangeably, referring to plant material being steeped in alcohol to extract plant chemistry and flavor. When used in culinary applications, the term extract seems to be favored (e.g. vanilla extract).
glycerite-also known as a glycerine extract. Generally an alcohol-free alternative to an herbal tincture or extract. Glycerine, a thick, sweet, clear, plant-based syrup is used along with water to extract the plant chemistry from the dried herbal plant material (or fresh herbs can be used with straight glycerine). Plant material is steeped for several weeks before straining. Take care to source a food grade glycerine for use in your glycerites. Low-alcohol glycerites are also available, blending herbal tinctures with glycerine. Glycerites are dosed by drops.
tonic-this term is rather confusing in my opinion because I think that the term tonic conjures up the image of some type of drink or liquid medicine. In reality, the term tonic actually refers to the type of herb being used in the application (such as in a tea, infusion, or decoction). Tonic herbs are those that are said to stimulate the system and increase strength and vitality in the individual. I thought this was an interesting read about tonic herbs.
herbal beer-in essence, a fermented herbal soda, often using store-bought or airborne yeast to introduce carbonation. Ginger beer and root beer are common examples.
herbal wine-creating an herbal infusion, which is then mixed with sugar and specialized wine yeast. The mixture is allowed to ferment for several months or more in a series of special containers to allow for the buildup of carbonation and for alcohol to develop. Dandelion wine is an example. Another alternative is to make an herbal infused wine using wine as the menstruum and steeping herbs along with other flavoring agents such as spices or citrus peels as desired for a period of weeks to extract flavor and plant chemistry.
herbal honey-an herbal honey is honey (preferably raw to maintain all of the enzymatic goodness) in which an herbal leaf, flower, or root has been steeped for several weeks to impart flavor and infuse the honey with the healing properties of the herb. This can be dosed on a spoon or used topically for medicinal purposes depending on the herb. Herbal honeys may also be used or for flavoring foods or as a condiment.
herbal vinegar-steeping herbal plant material such as root, leaves, or flowers into a vinegar base for several weeks to impart flavor, minerals, and beneficial properties. Any vinegar may be used such as white wine, apple cider, or Balsamic. Fruit may also be added to enhance flavor. Herbal vinegars can be used in salad dressings, oxymels, or other food applications.
herbal oil-created by steeping dried plant material into an oil or blend of carrier oils such as olive, grape seed, almond, apricot kernel, jojoba, etc. Can be done over several weeks in a sunny window; across several hours while being gently heated, or for several minutes in a high speed blender. The plant material is then strained out, leaving the verbally-infused oil for topical or culinary applications, depending upon the plants and oils used. Fresh (wilted) herbs may be used in culinary applications where the oil will be refrigerated, but should be avoided in other applications as their water content may encourage mold growth.
herbal salt-a blend of fresh herbs and salt, often processed together and allowed to dry for a couple hours before being stored for use. In culinary applications, sea salt or kosher salt may be used. For external use such as in baths or foot soaks, epsom salt may be the preferred choice. Herbal salts can also incorporate spices and citrus rinds to enhance flavor. Bath salts may use essential oils in addition to, or in place of fresh herbs.
herbal sugar-much like herbal salts, herbal sugars combine herbs with sugar to use for finishing food, enhancing recipes, or elevating drinks. Using a slightly different process which varies by recipe, herbal sugars essentially infuse the herb and its essence into sugar.
paste-for culinary uses soft herbs such as basil, parsley, tarragon, etc. are processed very finely with a drizzle of neutral oil to form a paste. This can then be used in marinades, rubs, as a condiment, etc. For medicinal uses, fresh or dried herbs are pounded or ground and mixed with honey, oil, water, egg white, etc. to form a paste consistency which is then applied to the body where needed.
pesto-an extension of a culinary herb paste, a pesto often includes the addition of nuts (traditionally pine nuts), garlic, and cheese (traditionally parmesan or Parmigiano-Reggiano).
jelly or jam-herbal plant material is infused into water and then cooked with sugar and pectin and boiled to the proper temperature to create a thick syrup. Fruit or fruit juices may be used as well to lend flavor. The syrup is bottled according to the recipe and allowed to cool and thicken. Herbal infusions cooked with or without strained fruit juices will produce a clear jelly. Herbal infusions cooked with whole fruit purees will produce jam.
compound butter-not to be confused with a body butter, in an herbal compound chopped herbs are mixed or whipped with softened butter (generally cow’s milk). Sweeteners such as honey or other flavoring agents such as vinegar or citrus zest may also be added to enhance the butter. Once the herbs are incorporated into the butter, the mixture is reshaped into a log and chilled to solidify. Compound butters are used in culinary applications.
lozenge-(see cough drop) generally one of two preparations that are used to reference cough drops or lozenges interchangeably. In the first preparation, a decoction is made of dried herbs and water. The decoction is then mixed with honey, and a soothing bulking agent such as slippery elm powder to create a soft dough. This dough is then rolled and cut into shape and allowed to dry before being stored for use. In the second preparation, you again start with an herbal decoction that you then cook slowly with a larger quantity of sugar or other sweetener until you reach the hard crack stage (best to do using a candy thermometer to avoid under or over cooking). The mixture is then poured into candy molds and cooled before being stored. Essentially, you are making make a medicinal herbal hard cancy.
cough drop-(see lozenge)

Transitioning toward items that are used more for topical applications, personal care, and home care (again with fuzzy boundaries between lists). The following distinctions may be helpful:

An oil is a liquid fat comprised of either a carrier oil infused with herbs or a carrier oil supplemented with essential oils. Carrier oils are generally neutrally-scented oils such as olive, avocado, grape seed, jojoba, apricot kernel, argan, nut oils, etc. Carrier oils may have their own therapeutic benefits but are not concentrated medicinal oils such as essential oils. Accordingly, carrier oils can be used directly on the skin, but essential oils must be diluted in a carrier oil before being applied to skin to avoid irritation.

A butter is a solid fat that will melt around body temperature but is solid at room temperature. Examples include cocoa butter, shea butter, or mango butter.

essential oil-essential oils are the volatile and aromatic oils and chemistry of the plant typically extracted through a steam distillation process. Essential oils have many topical uses when diluted with other oils, or can be inhaled via steam, mists, or diffusers. Internal use or consumption of essential oils should be done with extreme care and only under the guidance of an experienced herbalist.
hydrosol-sometimes also referred to as flower waters, hydrosols are an herbally-infused water. Hydrosols are produced when the steam used in distilling essential oil cools and returns to a liquid state. They contain the water-soluble chemistry of the plant material as well as very small amounts of the essential oils. Hydrosols may be used in place of water or other liquids in skincare applications or as a facial or room-scenting mist. If made from edible plants, hydrosols may also be used in culinary applications (e.g. rose water, orange flower water).
gel-a non-greasy extract of herbs in an gel-base, usually from aloe but may derive from other gel-rich plants such as prickly pear cactus. Can also use a decoction or tincture to which a gelling agent is added such as agar agar or gelatin. Used topically.
liniment-intended for topical use, generally to relieve muscle pain or strain. Liniments are the end product of steeping dried herbs into a solvent such as witch hazel or rubbing alcohol. Herbs are steeped in the alcohol for several weeks before straining. Vinegar may also be used in combination or in place of the alcohol.
lotion-similar to a cream, but thinner due to a higher percentage of water-based ingredients as opposed to oils or butters (approximately 70/30 or 80/20). Water-based ingredients can include teas, hydrosols, infusions, aloe gel, distilled water, etc. Lotions spread and absorb quickly and easily.
cream-semi-solid emulsion, generally with approximately 50% oil and 50% water-based ingredients, often with the addition of some hardening wax. Recipes may use herbal infused oils or essential oils blended with carrier oils such as grapes or jojoba. A variety of water-based ingredients may be used (see lotion). Often packaged in a tub or tube, creams spread easily, absorb quickly, and are water soluble. Creams are generally applied to the skin for therapeutic, moisturizing, or medicinal uses.
body butter-combination of carrier oil/herbal oil, and butters. Generally thicker than a lotion or a cream due to containing little or no water-based ingredients, they are often used for similar topical applications, especially for very dry skin.
ointment-(see unguent) thicker than a lotion or cream, ointments are generally 80% oil and 20% water-based ingredients. They are thicker to spread and take a while to absorb. *Note that some sources list ointments as being synonomous with salves, balms, and unguents and exclude water-based ingredients from their composition.
salve-(see balm) a thick blend of herbal infused oils (or essential oil and carrier oils), along with a hardening wax such as beeswax or candelilla wax (vegan). On occasion butters may be used in addition to, or in place of waxes. Salves are generally applied to the skin for therapeutic of medicinal uses.
balm-(see salve) thick blend of oils and wax. May contain butters as well, and on occasion butters may replace waxes in a recipe. The terms salve and balm seem to be used interchangeably without much distinction, although lip products are most often called balms rather than salves for whatever reason. Historically, balms appeared to have been associated with resinous plant materials.
unguent-(see ointment) a term used less frequently, but often interchangeably with ointment. The only distinction that I found was that an unguent may be more oily and less viscous as compared to an ointment.
lotion bar-a blend of herbal infused oil or essential oil and carrier oil along with butters and beeswax that is then melted, mixed, molded, and allowed to cool. The ratio of oil, butter, and beeswax is generally close to equal (1:1:1). The bar can then be warmed between the hands or on the skin to re-melt a bit of the bar to soothe or moisturize skin. Often used for massage or to moisturize hands or feet.
toner/aftershave-generally used to balance skin ph and to cool and refresh the skin. Toners and aftershaves are both a blend of herbally-infused water or hydrosols with an astringent such as alcohol, vinegar, or witch hazel at their base. Other ingredients such as aloe vera gel and glycerine may be added depending upon the recipe used.
scrub-usually a combination of essential oils or of dried plant material such as flowers or leaves along with carrier oil, and a granular substance such as salt, sugar, or ground nuts, beans, etc. Scrubs are used to exfoliate and moisturize the skin. Scrubs may be used for face or body depending in the intensity of the granular component.
bath fizz-an extension of a bath salt (see herbal salt), a bath fizz adds baking soda and citric acid to produce a fizzing bubbly action when added to your bath water.
bath bomb-basically a molded bath fizz. Oil, tea, water, or an infusion is carefully added in small amounts to the bath fizz base to allow for shaping as desired. Once shaped into molds, the mixture is allowed to dry fully so that it will hold its shape. It is then ready to be dropped into a bath a desired to produce a bubbly, soothing, aromatic bath.
bath melt-a bath melt enriches butters such as cocoa butter and shea butter with herbal oils, essential oils, and/or dried herbs. After heating the ingredients to liquify, the mixture is cooled in small molds. Bath melts are added to running bath water and allowed to melt, creating a moisturizing, aromatic bath.
body mist or spray-at its base, a body spray or mist combines a refreshing astringent such as witch hazel or vodka with distilled water or a hydrosol. Essential oils may be added to boost aroma, and glycerine or aloe vera gel may be added to soothe the skin and boost the mist’s aromatic staying power.

This last grouping is herbal items to enhance your surroundings:

room spray-similar to a body spray or mist, a room spray combines distilled water or a hydrosol with an astringent preservative such as vodka or witch hazel, often getting a boost from essential oils as well. Proportions vary greatly among recipes from 1:1 water to astringent ratio to straight hydrosol or water/essential combination.
incense-basically a mixture of dried herbs, woods, or resins, binding agents and combustible materials such as charcoal or makko that are burned to release an aromatic, cleansing smoke. Incense making is a bit complex to describe in brief, but this article seems like a good reference if you are interested in learning more.
smudging stick-select herbs are bundled, tied together, and dried. Once completely dried, the bundles can be burned and their smoke used for cleansing, purifying, and healing purposes. Traditional smudging herbs include white sage, cedar, and mugwort, but other herbs can be used as well. Be sure to research before burning an herb to determine if the smoke produced will be healthy for inhalation or use in enclosed spaces.

Whew! I hope that you found this glossary of herbal terms and list of ideas helpful and inspiring. With the growing season upon us, I know that I will be looking at the plants all around me in new ways. If you have terms that I missed that you think should be included in the list, please comment with them. Also, if you have favorite recipes to share in any of the above categories, I would love to hear them.

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Whimsy Kids Subscription Box Update

After reading my recent review of the Whimsy Kids subscription box, owner Hannah contacted me with some news about the Whimsy Kids site and plans for the future. First, Hanna wanted to clarify that sometimes the box will feature a softcover book rather than a hardcover book as I mentioned in the review. She added that in these cases, the supplementary items in the box will have a higher value to compensate for the book’s lower cost. Hannah also said that she has been having so much fun with the Whimsy Box subscription service that she will be taking steps in the near future to shift the focus of her store to the Whimsy Box subscription service exclusively. I am sure that this move will allow her to give even more attention to her family and to the wonderful box curation. I am excited to see what is in store in the months ahead.

It is always fun to hear new developments on the subscription box front. If you want to check out the Crunchy Parent list of crunchy-friendly subscription boxes, you can find a host of naturally-oriented, eco-friendly, and otherwise crunchy subscription boxes in the categories of food, home, lifestyle, baby, pregnancy, fair trade, handmade, and more.

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Whimsy Kids “Whimsy Box” Subscription Box Unboxing and Review-May 2015

Whimsy Kids is a lovely website offering a range of children’s products that appeal to families embracing a more natural lifestyle. They feature items such as cloth diapers, open ended toys made from natural materials, low-to-no toxin personal care items, and more. About six months ago, Whimsy Kids launched their “Whimsy Box” subscription service. Not to be confused with the now defunct “WhimseyBox” subscription, this unique endeavor pairs a hand-selected hardcover children’s book with a carefully curated mix of 4-5 toys, treats, and other special items to complement the story and stimulate continued play and awareness inspired by the book. Items are often exclusive to the Whimsy Box, and many are handmade by artisans based on inspirations from the monthly book. Book selections appear to be geared primarily toward young children, ages approximately four to eight years.

Boxes cost $35 per month plus $5 shipping when introduced for pre-purchasing and for a few months thereafter. Prices increase after that time to more closely reflect the value of the items included. Multi-month subscriptions are discounted and include free shipping. In addition, Whimsy Kids offers a Sibling Box option for $20 shipping included, which features the supplementary items without the hardcover book. This is a great option if you have multiple children who may be interested in sharing the story, but not in sharing the special items, or if you already own the book being featured.

If you would like to see the live-action unboxing, please enjoy the video unboxing below. If you prefer to skip right to the product close-ups and details, scroll down past the video.

Star Stuff book-May Whimsy Kids

This month’s Whimsy Kids box featured the Book Star Stuff (value $17.99) which explores Carl Sagan and his boyhood curiosities about space that later led to a lifelong career as an astronomer. As soon as I saw the preview for the May box, I knew that this would be an excellent selection for us to try. Asher has been very interested in space, the solar system, and life beyond Earth as of late. I thought that he would be excited about a book featuring a boy with many of the same questions and curiosities. In addition, because the book was previewed, and we are currently living in transition with my parents while we look for a new house, I was able to request the book from our local library and take advantage of the Sibling box option during this time when we have to be especially mindful of the things that we can keep at our home, given our current space limitations. I was very grateful to be able to have the book at the ready when the rest of the items arrived, and I will look forward to adding the story to our home library when we move into our next house. The typical box includes your own beautiful copy of Star Stuff to keep and enjoy. Amazon lists this book as being intended for children ages 4-8 years, although I believe that it could be enjoyed by children a bit older and younger than the stated range as well.

Whimsy Kids May 2015 box

To complement the book, the package included a colorful nebulous post card, a cute solar system sticker, and a Yummy Earth Organics lollipop as a sweet treat. The sticker and lollipop were quickly put to good use. We’ve been longtime Yummy Earth Organics fans, I even interviewed one of the owners years ago as part of this blog’s 1.0 version. We love that their products are free of nuts, corn, soy, gluten, dairy, and artificial colors or flavors. The post card would make a beautiful addition to a nature table or any space or sky-themed decor. Of course you could always use it to drop someone a note from your next space adventure.

True colors were a bit more muted than picture shows

True colors were a bit more muted than picture shows

Also in the box was an absolutely beautiful, 21” square playsilk. The silk had been hand painted by Whimsy Kid’s owner herself to evoke the dark starry sky that inspired Carl Sagan’s curiosities about space. It is accentuated by what appear to be batiked twinkling stars. At first I was not sure of the fabric content of the scarf, as reflected in the unboxing because it feels less “silky” than I am used to. Hannah from Whimsy Kids confirmed that it is 100% Habotai silk, which is the material most commonly used for Waldorf-style playsilks.

Whimsy Kids constellation disc-May 2015

The final treasure in the box was a unique wood constellation disc made by From Jennifer. The disc features five constellations highlighted by drilled holes and connected and labeled by wood burning. When a single light flashlight shines through the holes of a complete constellation, the lit up “starry” image is projected onto a wall or ceiling. This disc was a custom creation for this Whimsy Box, although similar “constellation coins” are often available at the FromJennifer Etsy shop.

Whimsy Kids complete May 2015 "Whimsy Box"

This box was a hit for us. Asher and Alina were both interested in listening to me read the story and they loved shining a light through the constellation disc and wondering about the stars, the sky, and life beyond Earth. I am confident that the playsilk will make a great backdrop for space-themed play and be used in many varied ways by the kids.

It is difficult to place a dollar value on the box. The book itself lists for $17.99 but the other “big ticket” items in the box were custom, handmade items, and thus are difficult to value. I think that the curation is exceptional, and I feel as though my money was well spent on this special star-themed box. I personally think that Whimsy Kids boxes would make excellent gifts for young children, especially those whose families gravitate toward toys made from natural materials, that are handmade, and that inspire open-ended play. Having a story to read and items to extend the story themes into a child’s own play and exploration is a unique idea for a subscription box. I am excited to see what other stories and items will be featured in future Whimsy Boxes. The May Whimsy Box is still available for purchase if you want to grab one for yourself or for someone else.

I will soon be updating my list of Crunchy-Friendly Subscription Boxes to add the Whimsy Kids Box and other recent and unique crunchy subscription box finds. Be sure to subscribe to CrunchyParent.com to be notified when the updated list is posted. Until then, the list should give you many great options for kids, home, baby, food, and more.

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Barganic Alert: Free Digital Downloads About Herbalism and Fermenting Foods

There are so many things that I want to post about that I’m reeling from it all. While I try to get posts up, I didn’t want you to miss out on some current freebies that may be of interest.

First, for those wanting information in the area of herbalism the following free digital downloads are currently available:

Herbal Medicine: 100 Key Herbs With All Their Uses As Herbal Remedies for Health and Healing (Kindle required)

Herbal Antibiotics: 15 Herbs With Natural Antibiotic Properties As An Effective Defense Against Drug-Resistant Superbugs (Herbal Antibiotics, Herbal Antibiotics books, herbal medicine) (Kindle required)

Natural Herbal Living Magazine is offering their digital magazine about Approaching a Personal Herbal Practice as a free Kindle download. (Kindle required)

The Herbal Academy of New England is giving away a free digital download of their ebook “9 Familiar Herbs for Beginners” if you sign up for their newsletter.

Lastly, if fermenting foods is something you want to learn more about or simply can’t get enough of, Fermented Vegetables: How to ferment vegetables and why they are the ultimate superfood is also currently being offered as a free Kindle download.

I hope that you find something in the above that fuels your interests and sparks new learning. Make sure that you don’t miss out on any Barganic Alerts, these babies tend to be time-limited. Subscribe to Crunchyparent.com to always be the first to know!

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